Tyrese Haliburton is the story of this NBA season. The 23-year-old initiator leaped off of his previous all-star campaign to full-fledged superstardom. He’s captaining one of the best statistical offensive seasons in NBA history, as the Indiana Pacers make 130-point nights feel commonplace. Though his passing fuels every other Pacer — Haliburton’s tossing 12 assists per game with just 2.6 turnovers — but his historic shotmaking might be even more impressive.

Though Halburton eclipsed 40% from beyond the arc in all four of his NBA seasons, this year is different. Beyond his career-high 43.5% on 8.4 threes per game, Haliburton’s off-dribble shotmaking is game-breaking. He’s second in the league in pull-up three-point volume, taking 6.8 per game and nailing 42.3% of them. For context, the only other player shooting four or more off-dribble threes per game at above 40% is Jalen Bruson, shooting 4.1 per game.

Haliburton’s efficiency and volume don’t make sense. This is rarified shooting air, as only the greatest snipers in league history have matched what Haliburton does. It comes in spire of a funky, sometimes clunky-looking release, one that concerned scouts before Haliburton entered the NBA. He lulls defenders to sleep with an unorthodox handling rhythm, transitioning from his dribble to his shot as cleanly as anyone else in the NBA.

He blends that shotmaking gravity with elite passing, as defenders must defend Haliburton well beyond the arc given his deep range. Though some teams like the Lakers have bothered Haliburton with heavy pressure, his playmaking makes the Pacers go. With special vision, passing feel and creative deliveries, few NBA players match his playmaking prowess.

So much of Indiana’s offense feels simple, whether they’re hitting passes ahead in early offense, running spread pick and rolls or just playing pass and cut basketball with five-out spacing. Haliburton’s natural passing gene makes this work, as he exploits even the slightest crack in opposing defenses to find ready shooters and cutters for easy shots. It truly feels like a modern version of the Steve Nash seven seconds or less offense but with their primary adding hyper-aggressive scoring. 

If there is any aspect of his game to nitpick, Haliburton’s defense can be destructive at times. He’s a heady playmaker but bleeds value in every other defensive category. Despite his problems, Haliburton is far from the only player deserving of blame for Indiana’s poor defense. Most players with his offensive responsibility give up points defensively and the ones that don’t are all-time greats.

Tyrese Haliburton is singular in his approach to basketball. No player passes and scores in the pace-oriented, rhythmically erratic manner that Haliburton does. Regardless of how far the Pacers make it this season, they have their franchise cornerstone who will hopefully grace MVP conversations for years to come.

Written by contributor Ben Pfeifer